Crying shame

Francinah Baaitse Mmana

Okavango voice baby born at home as ambulance fails to reach village

Distressing news of a young woman from Shorobe village who delivered a baby at home because an ambulance could not drive on a gravel road to reach her village trended on social media this week.

Although the woman and her baby were ultimately assisted by good Samaritans and finally taken to hospital, the District Health Management Team (DHMT) was yet to explain why the woman could not be assisted in time when there was ambulance parked at Shorobe clinic when she called.

However councilor for Sankoyo/Shorobe, Olebile Chombo explained that the driver did not refuse to assist the woman as alleged but rather obeyed instructions from superiors.

“I went to the clinic for better understanding of what transpired. What I was told is that, the ambulance is made of fibreglass and therefore not rated for gravel road,” Chombo explained.

He said there was once a driver who took a risk to pick a patient off tarred road and the ambulance was damaged.
“They were instructed that if they ever repeat that and go on gravel road, the repair expenses would be paid by such a driver,”Chombo explained.

The concerned councillor further noted that there was a dire need for ambulances in his area, as the one they have was as good as nonexistent. “Its duty is to drive from the clinic, onto the tar road to Letsholathebe hospital and that is that,” he said

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He went on to reveal that home births were not a rare occurrence in his area, highlighting that because of the sandy terrain and poverty, some mothers end up delivering their babies at home.

Poor terrain, gravel roads that connect most settlements to Maun are known to be negatively impacting on timely provision of emergency obstetric care services leading to increased risk of poor maternal health outcomes. Some settlements are over 150 kilometres from Maun and only connected by rough gravel roads.

“ This is our sad reality in Ngamiland. Those who cannot contact a councillor or some neighbours and relatives who have vehicles end up in these situations,” Chombo

However, there is a waiting home for pregnant mothers at Moeti clinic in Maun which according to head of Ngami District Health Management Team (DHMT), Dr Sandra Maripe caters for women from villages outside Maun who may find it difficult to reach health facilities during labour.

Speaking recently during world patient safety day, Maripe noted that, “In response to the high number of born before arrivals (BBAS) from long distance to health facilities, poor terrains and road networks and possibility of wildlife attacks, Ngami DHMT identified Moeti clinic to host women from hard to-reach areas like Kareng, Somelo and Mababe”

Meanwhile from once the third leading district with maternal mortality ratio of 321 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016, Ngamiland is known to have made a turnaround with a remarkable progress in reaching the target of reduction in maternal deaths in women and girls despite some of these challenges.

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In fact in 2020 according to DHMT, the district boasted of only 79 deaths per 100,000 live births, which she said was way below the national record of 166 deaths per 100 000 live births in 2019.

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